In the presidential campaign of 1989, on the cover of Jornal do Brasil, in an edition of November 12 of that year, the headline “Brizola – the return to the point where he left history in 1964: a step away from the presidency Is read.
This is how Leonel Brizola and the Labor Party reappeared on the Brazilian political scene as a presidential candidate, 25 years after the absence of presidential elections, with the aim of picking up the “thread of history”.
This expression summarized the central axis of his electoral campaign of 1989: after the presidencies of Getúlio Vargas and João Goulart and after the interruption forced by the military dictatorship, the time had come for Brazil to return to work. In the campaign, Brizola offered the Brazilian people the past of achievements – CLT, Petrobras, CIEP.
However, the union leader did not imagine that the Brazilian people would claim the future to be conquered. Fernando Collor de Mello, the new liberal of Brazilian conservatism, and Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, the new socialist, defeated Brizola and contested the second round of the presidential elections.
During this election, the union leader, who had the gift of reading people, as Darcy Ribeiro said, did not understand that the Brazilians were fed up with the past of the dictatorship, which officially ended in 1988 with the advent of the Citizen Constitution.
The 1989 elections would open a new democratic cycle in the country. And everyone who was in the past should stay there, even those who fought to make the past different.
Paradoxically, Brizola had aged with the military regime he had fought so hard. To imagine a future that would not come true would be to resort to nostalgia for memory, considering defeat as necessary for the construction of victory.
The Brazilian people did not want to know about it, they wanted to move forward, continue towards their destiny, face the present and take care of it so that it soon becomes the expected future. Brazil then decided to elect the new, or better, the representatives of the new who, as we know, often appear as simulacra, copies of the old, repetitions of the old, even spasms of the old, capable of creating monsters in transition, when, according to Gramsci, the old does not die out and prevents the new from being born.
The Brazil of 2022 can repeat history, as Hegel said, and after being a farce in 1989, it can be consumed as a tragedy in 2022, to remind Marx as well.
In the current scenario, the Lula era –1989 to 2022– may have a similar outcome to the Brizola era –1961 to 1989. This definition of the era meets two criteria: the anointed leader with a national voice and the affirmation-refusal of the leader on the political scene. Just as Brizola burst nationwide as the leader of Legalidade in 1961 and returned in 1989, Lula went to the second round in 1989 and is also the assert or deny leader in 2002.
In the definition that I propose, the electoral results and those chosen are secondary, the value which consecrates the era is given by the dimension of the protagonist and by the insertion of their ideas in the political scene of the country during the period concerned.
The polarization between Lula and Bolsonaro exteriorizes the confrontation between the past to be saved from the governments of Lula –Bolsa-família, Prouni, Pronasci–, supported by social inclusion and direct income transfer projects, and the reiteration of Bolsonaro, the leader of a weak government in all sectors, from the economy to health, which has aged early, both to save the military regime and to do nothing more meaningful for the nation to develop it.
Bolsonaro is not a forged leader in the field of political struggle, he is simply a product of the digital age, like Waldo in the American series “Black Mirror”, added to the Workers Party’s own deviations from the route at the Palácio do Planalto.
It must be observed carefully, but it is secondary in the life of the country and even more in history. Without the tragic result of the pandemic in Brazil, his government would only have one paragraph in a high school history book.
In short: what will be decided in 2022 is whether we will end the Lula era by voting or whether we will open a new democratic cycle in the country. To be more educational: the victory of Lula or Bolsonaro will represent the extension of the Lula era. The victory of a genuinely new project may or may not come from the ballot box given the eventual popular consecration of an alternative leadership to polarization.
Among the names given, with the exception of Ciro Gomes, the others are experiments of the national elite to find their rightful representative, which they have not been able to achieve until now. The Brazilian elite, in the last period, either reconciled with Lula, or submitted to the “Fearful” adventures, first, or to the Pocketnarian adventures later.
The point is, 2022 can be interpreted by voters as an opportunity to turn the page. Lula will be presented as the leader of social achievements, but as the former justice minister of his second government, Tarso Genro, says, achievements are naturalized and assimilated based on the performance of the individual.
In 2022, Lula could be the old man trying to defeat the Gramscian monster of the transition, fueled by PT mistakes that until today have not even been admitted by the leader and the PT. Lula will not be able to present himself with a post-modern, even contemporary discourse. You will have to invest to pick up the story.
It is in this aspect of reconquering the past, by being assimilated to the “old man” in the eyes of the voter, that Lula can repeat Brizola’s story. Especially if the Brazilian citizen, tired of the cycle of promise of the “spectacle of economic growth”, betrayed by the operation Lava Jato, who corrupted himself to fight against corruption, and enlightened by the understanding that his fate does not imply to return to the past lulopetista, of which he had the most outstanding legacy in Bolsonaro, opens up to new perspectives and rejects the representatives of the same cycle. At this moment, a specter haunts Brazil: the experience of 1989.